Technology review: Windows 365 Cloud PC

26 September 2022

Technology review
Modern workplace

As the war for talent continues to rage, companies are increasingly using freelancers and temp workers. At the same time, full-time staff are splitting their time between working from home and in the office. Windows 365 Cloud PC enables employers to offer all staff a fully virtual PC, so who's working where with which device doesn't matter.

Remote working is nothing new. Virtual desktops have been common practice in a large number of companies for many years. The principle is straightforward – employees access data and applications located in the company data center on site over a secure connection. Many company IT infrastructures have now moved to the cloud, at least in part. This applies to virtual desktops, too, which can be used as a cloud service via Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), for example.

With AVD, however, the company is responsible for managing the Azure environment. "It's usually a very restrictive environment," says Filip Roelandt, Workplace Solution Manager at Inetum-Realdolmen, "focused on the organization itself." AVD is part of the company's network, as was the case with "traditional" virtual desktop solutions. In practice, companies that employ contractors and temporary staff find that AVD is too rigid and requires a more complex back-end management structure.

Bring your own device

Microsoft has responded to these needs with Windows 365 Cloud PC. The name is self-explanatory: a company uses Windows 365 Cloud PC to set up a virtual system. They can then determine how much computing power and storage a user receives, and much more, and they pay based on the choices they make, per user and per month. Microsoft offers two standard versions of the service: Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise.
Users only need an Internet-capable device, whether it runs on Windows, Linux, macOS or Android. 

"In that sense, you can see Windows 365 Cloud PC as an answer to bring your own device," explains Roelandt. "A huge bonus is that companies no longer have to procure and provide physical devices." Supplying these devices is a significant challenge for companies that often employ freelancers or temp workers. "All staff can start working on the company virtual PC right away. They experience the working environment that colleagues have in the office on their desktop, even if they use their own physical device to connect to Cloud PC."

Virtual PC for staff working from home

That's why companies switched to Cloud PC when their staff suddenly had to start working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. The demand for laptops for those working from home rose sharply, often leading to long waiting times. Cloud PC, however, allowed employees to be offered a safe, complete working environment using their own device with just a subscription. 

And the fact that companies didn't have to issue physical hardware was an added bonus in the Covid era. "By extension, this makes Cloud PC extremely suitable for all sectors where remote working is common but distributing physical devices is always a complex logistics exercise." Examples include programmers seconded to a client's site on a temporary basis or doctors who split their time across various campuses of a hospital. Another advantage is that the company's ICT department manages the Cloud PC environment centrally with Intune, while every user has access to a solution that is always up to date.

Proper management

"Companies without an AVD environment can still offer their internal and external employees a virtual working environment in no time via Cloud PC," adds Roelandt. "Of course, setting up proper management and security for the virtual PCs is important.

Simply giving someone a virtual PC would otherwise be the virtual equivalent of the employee buying a PC at random in a store and gaining access to the business applications and data. "That's why we look at Cloud PC from the perspective of bring your own device, but with a much more thorough approach. The Zero Trust principles should also be observed here."

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